Since March of this year, much of our nation has been living in isolation, doing life together, but separately. At first, ways to make new connections were novel. There were long distance game nights via Zoom and virtual novelties that made life seem new. (In no other reality would we have had a goat and a pig virtually join us for a staff meeting to improve employee morale.) As April turned into May, however, and scorching summer temperatures correlated with a rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19, our souls grew weary. Add race riots and protests and tumultuous pre-election negativity to our quarantine and it became easy to conclude that, as so many have publicly stated, our nation is a dumpster fire. While we were separate together, it suddenly seemed that we were isolated by terms such racism, privilege, anthem and flag.
Six months later, the world is not much different. It is still 105 degrees in the desert. Our students are still learning virtually (although thankfully for not much longer). Racial reconciliation is seemingly a term of the future. Political divides are greater than ever. Many of us are still reluctant to live our lives out loud, and with a sense of community once again. Tired, uncertain, and fearful are still common household and workplace terms.
What would it look like, however, if this October we chose to emphasize our relationships and our similarities instead of our differences? How could we love each other better, respect each other more, if we took a more Godly approach to this pre-election season in our lives? Could we begin to take strides toward reconciliation in all areas of our lives, whether it be racial or even our familial or workplace relationships in general? What would it look like to commune together in love once again?
This week, we will be exploring the concept of community through a lens of biblically based unity. What does the Bible tell us about living united, and living united together? I hope that you will open your hearts with me this week as we strive to dig deeper into our humanity as individuals and as a united human race.
To Live in Community Is christian
As we begin our discourse on unity, perhaps it would be wise to first examine why community is important. A recent sermon at church emphasized this idea through the scriptures in Acts 2. The chapter begins with the disciples gathered together on the day of Pentecost (v. 1). They were gathered in community, as God intended for them to be. We can see throughout scripture examples of how we were created for community with God and with each other. Acts Chapter 2 is just one example of this community and fellowship being lived out loud. Although we won't go through other examples in this post, two key takeaways regarding community will guide us through our work this week:
As we assess these two ideas in relation to the current state of our nation and the impact of COVID-19, we can see how these two points apply to our lives today. When we are denied the opportunity to gather in community, to worship together, praise God together, talk to each other, break bread together, etc., our faith tends to waiver. It's easier to not be accountable to our Bible study, for the words we speak on social media, and for our lagging faith when we are not together in community. It's easier to take a Sunday off, fall behind in a reading plan, or neglect our prayer life altogether. True Christian living requires a togetherness and a fellowship that is proven by the simple fact that we, as humans, are stronger together. It is easier to live united when we are living in oneness with God.
As we explore the idea of unity, let us ponder these aforementioned ideas. Are you currently in contradiction of living a Christian life? Have the limitations of COVID given you an excuse for a lack of living in community? How are you currently out of step with the rhythms of communal living, either with God or with others? How are you out of step with yourself?
As we move forward, know that these questions come from a place of love, and from my own personal yearnings and deep, heavy reflections. As a person who lived some of these months in isolation for too long, this post is my way of reaching back out and seeking community with so many of you.
Put on Love
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:14 NIV tells us, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." But what are "all these virtues"? I think the beginning of Colossians 3 merits a bit of analysis so that we can see what we are permitted to lay aside for the sake of clothing ourselves in love in order to bind ourselves together. Verse 12 tells us to clothe ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Verse 13 continues, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone." In order to do all of this, earlier in the passage we are asked to "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature, " (v. 5). We are to rid ourselves of "anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips," (v. 8). One scroll through social media after last week's presidential debate and I am convicted, friends. We would do well to heed these words of Colossians 3 right now.
2020 is kind of a mess, friends. But mucking through the mess is one of those things that I think God might just be calling us to do right now. How can we live this scripture out loud this week, clothing ourselves in love and discarding our garments of anger, rage, malice and slander? Unity doesn't mean uniformity. We don't have to agree with everything everyone around us says. But we can be better Christians by coming together as a community and loving one another better through the mess. Our hearts might just be better for it.
Linger a Little Longer:
1. Which verse above is the most convicting to you as you reflect on the turmoil of this last week? Why?
2. How have you been living in community throughout these past six months? What impact has it had on your soul?
3. Have you been living a life that is contradictory to being a Christian in some way? Make a list. How can you live better by choosing to put on love and discard hate over the course of this next week?